LONDON — A subsidiary of Thailand’s Central Group has denied that it is involved in talks to buy the British department store Selfridges.
In a statement addressed to the president of the Thai Stock Exchange, the company said: “For clarification, regarding news stories by The Times and Brand Inside on Dec. 2, 2021 reporting that Central Group is preparing to purchase Selfridges, the company would like to clarify that the company is not currently involved with the transaction reported in the news.”
The statement was signed by Central Retail Corp.’s chief executive officer Yol Phokasub. Central Retail Corp. is a publicly quoted division of Central Group. It operates a number of consumer businesses across Thailand, Vietnam and Italy.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesperson for Central Group declined to comment on the press reports. Vittorio Radice, vice chairman of the Italian department store Rinascente and an executive at Central Group, did not return a request for comment.
According to sources familiar with the matter, while Central Retail is not buying Selfridges, its parent company Central Group is still very much working on a deal to acquire the department store chain and put it in Central Group owner’s private collection.
On Thursday, The Times of London reported that the Weston family had agreed a sale of Selfridges to Central Group. The article was unclear about whether Central was prepared to pay the 4 billion pound asking price, or whether it was partnering with another party — a private equity, or property group — on the deal.
An industry source here told WWD that 4 billion pounds would be a hefty price for Central, which usually pursues much smaller deals.
Central is controlled by the Chirathivat family and operates retail businesses in Thailand and Vietnam as well as Europe. Its holdings include Rinascente in Italy; Illum in Denmark, and KaDeWe, Oberpollinger and Alsterhaus in Germany.
The company has made no secret of its intentions to expand through acquisitions in Europe and Asia, but said it has little interest in the U.S. market.
“It’s a very big market, very advanced. It’s very sophisticated, whereas in Europe, we feel that we can buy these stores and improve them,” said Tos Chirathivat, the group’s chief executive officer, in an interview with WWD in 2017.
Back in July, The Times of London reported that Selfridges was exploring a sale, and advisers at Credit Suisse have sent out an information memorandum to potential investors.
Sources at that time noted sovereign wealth funds, such as Adia of Abu Dhabi, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, and the Qatar Investment Authority, which already own Harrods, as interested bidders. Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford was also mentioned as a potential buyer.
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